Hi-Fi Rush shatters the narrative that Xbox Game Pass hurts game sales

Hi-Fi Rush
(Image credit: Tango Gameworks)

Console war never changes. 

Microsoft's surprise shadow drop Hi-Fi Rush is making waves. The rhythm-brawler is currently sitting at 88/100 on Metacritic (with our review on the way too), giving Microsoft a huge boost after what was a fairly anemic 2022 with regard to exclusive game releases. 

Microsoft is gearing up to have a much better 2023 already, with Age of Empires II for Xbox on the horizon, and major third-party games like Monster Hunter Rise and Persona 3 and 4 dropping straight into Xbox Game Pass already. The upcoming Xbox games list is swelling, with games like Forza Motorsport, Redfall, and Starfield promised to launch throughout the year. 

Still, console warriors are lining up to take shots at Hi-Fi Rush already. Blindsided by rare positive Xbox news, Hi-Fi Rush has seen some mild review bombing already from those who haven't even played the game — owing to the strange affinity some feel over plastic video game console brands. MMCGR82, a brand new account with only two reviews (both copied and pasted for Hi-Fi Rush), reads that the game is "pretty generic, 0/10" which couldn't be further from the objective truth. But I digress. 

Ultimately the only thing that matters at the end of the day is the financials. Video games are art, but they're also a business. And one popular attack angle for fanboys is to claim that Xbox Game Pass is unsustainable in some way because it negates game sales or some such. How can Microsoft afford this?! It hurts developers! And so on, they cry. Typically, we don't really have a great example of how Xbox Game Pass may or may not harm game sales, given that we can't analyze two separate realities where the same game simultaneously launched, and didn't launch into Xbox Game Pass. Schrödinger's Game, if you will. But perhaps this month, we have a next-best example. 

SteamDB Hi-Fi Rush charts

(Image credit: SteamDB)

According to data on SteamDB, Hi-Fi Rush managed to hit the top 10 sales chart for week 4 of 2023, despite the fact that it received no marketing beyond Microsoft's brand-new Xbox Developer_Direct showcase, and despite the fact it's "free" in PC Game Pass. One could argue that maybe it was a slow week for new PC game releases, but that context makes things even more interesting. This was the week that PlayStation 5 console exclusive Forspoken launched, and SteamDB charts titles by revenue as noted by prominent industry analyst @BenjiSales on Twitter. Forspoken had a large and traditional marketing cycle, featuring prominent placements by both Sony and Square Enix since 2020. Forspoken is also $70, compared to Hi-Fi Rush' $30, indicating that Hi-Fi Rush must have managed to sell through vastly more copies on Steam in order to chart by revenue. 

It's notable since Forspoken isn't available on any all-you-can-eat subscription service. PC players could essentially grab Hi-Fi Rush for as little as $1 if they're joining PC Game Pass for the first time, but the virality of the game and its general quality and appeal appears to be driving interest in the game. Forspoken hit a middling 66/100 on Metacritic, and also had a playable demo build which received a similarly mixed reception. 

In any case, the whole scenario lends credence to the idea that the only thing that matters when it comes to game sales is, ultimately, making a great game. From indie hits with zero marketing budgets like Among Us to shadow-dropped platform exclusives like Hi-Fi Rush — in the end, the openness of PC and direct-word-of-mouth marketing via social media will eventually lead to great games being discovered, shared, and ultimately purchased. 

Hi-Fi RUSH

Hi-Fi RUSH

Nobody saw this coming, but Hi-Fi Rush dropped out of nowhere and has already solidified itself as one of 2023's most notable games.

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Jez Corden
Co-Managing Editor

Jez Corden a Managing Editor at Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by caffeine. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his Xbox Two podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!